Fatherless youths run riot
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Fatherless youths run riot

Will the mayhem in British cities this week finally convince doubters that family structure matters?
Joanna Bogle | 12 August 2011

Faces of rioters

Faces of rioters include that of an 11-year-old boy, and of a 19-year-old university student who attended a top grammar school. (Daily Telegraph)

No structure to life, no moral values, no father, little or no ability to read and write, a passion for consumer goods fuelled by an upbringing focused on the fulfilment of immediate needs – all this plus physical strength, ferocious anger, and commitment to a strong gang – it all makes rioting a good way to spend a summer evening.

And the main things that have blighted the lives of the young thugs and thieves who have been burning shops and stealing goods in Britain’s towns and cities and suburbs have been strongly promoted by official policies in recent decades.

Promotion of fatherless families has become the politically-correct stance in social policy. Even to suggest that children flourish when they have a father and mother married to one another and committed to family life, has been to be the object of sneering and denigration. It has been impossible a social worker or teacher to promote marriage as beneficial: to do so would be to court reprimands and face a blocked career or even possible dismissal.

The facts on the collapse of family life are widely available, and they are frightening: Since the 1960s, the percentage of children born out of marriage has risen from 5 per cent to over 40 per cent. While many of these children are now born to cohabiting couples, those relationships are typically unstable and break down at a much higher rate than marriages.

An analysis of official figures by the Bristol Community Family Trust (BCFT) and the Centre for Social Justice published last year showed that nearly one in two children born in Britain today will suffer family breakdown by the age of 16. Some London boroughs have upwards of 50 percent of lone parent headed households.

It really won’t do to pretend that all of this is has nothing to do with the boys and girls who have been setting fire to shops and homes, and gleefully grabbing consumer goods from shelves and gloating over their thieving. It was pathetic – genuinely, tragically pathetic – to hear calls for the children’s parents to take charge. Parents? Some were busy joining in the thieving and rioting themselves. Others, when contacted, revealed that they had zero control over their children’s lives. And the plural “parents” does not apply in most cases – too often there’s only mum, who over recent months and years has shared her home with various boyfriends.

The acceptance, and effective promotion, of casual sexual activity has been a staple of school sex-education schemes for some while now, and of course it is a message fuelled by TV soaps, teen celebrity magazines, the rock culture, and more. Marriage, faithfulness, commitment, a shared family heritage – all of this is utterly marginalised not only in the sub-culture fostered by those promoting teenage consumerism but also by officialdom.

If we want to try to rebuild a sane society, where burning shops and attacking people in the street is not considered a fun way to spend a summer evening, we must start by a tacit acceptance that social policies have got to change. It would be nice to have a “sorry” from those promoting the smashing of marriage and denigration of fatherhood – but we are unlikely to get that. A period of silence from them  is the next preferred option. And while that’s happening, those who do understand the social realities of life must get on with the rebuilding.

Promote male-female lifelong marriage. Support those who teach it. Allow schools to discipline children effectively. Promote schemes offering good male role models in youth groups. Encourage and fund youth work that offers structure, neighbourly service, discipline, friendships across racial groups, strong moral values and a sense of history, community and tradition.

This is a matter of public policy. There must be a cessation of the pretence that it is acceptable to impose the idea that marriage should be regarded as merely an optional extra. It isn’t. It’s the basis on which a community is based and in which a neighbourly society can flourish.

It would be good to think that this summer’s ghastly riots in Britain have been a wake-up call that will result in massive changes in social policy. But don’t hold your breath. Too many people have committed themselves wholly to a passionate opposition to anything that smacked of traditional moral, cultural and spiritual values – they won’t give in easily to the grinding reality of the evidence of the harm they have caused. The only hope is that there might be sufficient men and women in public life who are prepared to be realistic and offer a better hope for the future, to work for sane policies and to be courageous in trying to get them implemented.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour’s Ed Miliband have both talked about responsibility and parenting as issues to be addressed. The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson noted yesterday, “how Mr Miliband develops that theme will reveal a great deal about the direction he is taking his party.” Mr Cameron has also mentioned poor discipline in schools and a general lack of morals, ethics and values.

But, as Robinson said, “The prize will be great for the politician who can convince the electorate that in the face of what we have seen this week they are not merely impotent.”

Joanna Bogle writes from London.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | British riots, family breakdown, youth
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